Denver Teacher Tells Frustrating Union Opt-Out Story: Here Comes HB 1333

About a month ago I innocently raised the question: Is someone ready to take care of Colorado teachers’ “Hotel California” problem? A 2010 article by my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow highlighted a couple real-life examples of teachers who were harmed by the tight revocation deadlines and burdensome procedures for many teachers who simply want to end their union dues deduction.

Then today the Denver Post has published a “guest commentary” written by yet another teacher, Ronda Reinhardt, who last year missed the Denver Classroom Teachers Association’s November 15 deadline to cancel her union membership payments. You’re better off taking a couple minutes to read her frustrating story, but here she points out the silver lining:

A new proposal in the state legislature would remedy this troubling situation with a commonsense solution to protect teachers’ rights to choose how they want to spend their own money. Under House Bill 1333, any school district that provides payroll dues services must honor a teacher’s request to start or stop a membership deduction within 30 days. If it was currently the law, I would have been able to stop paying dues by December….

…It doesn’t matter whether the group is union or non-union. It shouldn’t be harder for a teacher to opt out of paying member dues than it is to cancel your cable or terminate a cell phone contract! [link added]

Ouch, that stings! But the main point to be cheered by is that some folks in the state legislature are trying to do something about the problem — one that affects many more Colorado teachers (and other school district employees) besides those in Denver Public Schools.

As pointed out by the Professional Association of Colorado Educators (PACE), the first hearing for HB 1333 comes up next Monday, April 23. Since plenty of teachers fear speaking out in ways that threatens union interests, and many more are just plain busy, it will be interesting to see how many speak out in one way or another. Perhaps this guest commentary will inspire a few.

Basic fairness and respect for teachers. A commonsense rule that most people would just assume existed already. It may be underrated and below the radar for many, but HB 1333 could turn out to be one of the most interesting stories of Colorado’s 2012 legislative session. Kudos to Miss Reinhardt for speaking out and sharing her story!